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UPDATE REGARDING COVID-19: Please note that the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) is not a grantmaking program and is unable to assist artists financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, because we recognize the growing effect that the pandemic is having on artists, we have compiled a growing list of resources for artists affected by COVID-19 and hope that you may find assistance there. Please refer to the "Stories" page to find the list. If you are an artist or cultural practitioner otherwise at risk because of your creative practice, please follow the directions below to contact us.

Please fill out the form to get in touch with us. Submissions are encrypted and ARC understands that your communications are confidential. ARC does not provide direct services, but we will do our best to refer you to organizations that do. You can also find help by exploring our network of resources.

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Please direct all media inquiries to arc@pen.org, +1.646.981.0688

New press releases about artistic freedom

Turkey Arrest 93 in Raid on Turkish Music Collective’s Cultural Center

November 9, 2020

(New York, NY) — An October 29 raid on the Idil Cultural Center, home to the Turkish music collective Grup Yorum, reportedly resulted in the arrests of 93 people. The arrests include Ali Aracı, a flute player who had recently been released after spending more than a year in prison, as well as the band’s lawyers, background singers, and a number of other soloists and musicians. PEN America condemns these detentions and said today that the raid is part of a glaring effort by Turkish government to silence outspoken artists.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Brazilian Filmmaker Subjected to Wave of Harassment After Satirical Tweet

October 26, 2020

(New York, NY) – After tweeting a satirical play on an 18th century enlightenment quotation, prominent Brazilian journalist and filmmaker João Paulo Cuenca has been subjected to a wave of online harassment and legal action. In a statement today, PEN America, PEN Brazil, and PEN International decried these tactics as a disturbing attack on freedom of expression and part of a worrying trend of hostility towards dissenting voices in Brazil.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Filmmaker, CUNY Student Detained Unjustly in Egypt

September 28, 2020

(New York, NY) — Mustafa Ali Hassanien, an Egyptian filmmaker and student at CUNY College of Staten Island, is currently being held in pretrial detention in Egypt and faces a number of charges that appear to be a politically motivated response to his criticism of the government. PEN America and the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR) denounced his detention and said that Hassanien’s arrest is an inexcusable violation of artistic freedom and a blatant attempt to silence political dissent. 

Read PEN America's full statement here.

'Antibodies' Original Song Channels Fight for Free Expression

September 24, 2020

(New York, NY) — PEN America today released “Antibodies,” an original song by Mai Khoi and Hamed Sinno in Vietnamese and Arabic that channels the current global movement for social justice amid a pandemic. The song’s release is part of #ArtistsxArtists, a campaign of PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) meant to call attention to threats to artistic freedom by pairing artists to creative collaborative works. The song is available today on Spotify and other platforms.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Turkey Frees Another Member of Embattled Music Collective

September 11, 2020

(New York, NY) — Just over a week after the release of Ali Aracı, another musician and member of the Turkish music collective Grup Yorum, Emel Yeşilırmak, was released from prison today. Yeşilırmak, who was sentenced to five years in jail, had been arrested 18 months earlier in the same raid as İbrahim Gökçek, a member of the band who died earlier this year following a hunger strike.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Iranian Musician Faces Spurious, Politically-Motivated Charges

September 4, 2020

(New York, NY) — On Saturday, Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian is expected to appear in court after being arrested for allegedly “encouraging prostitution” with his newest album. PEN America and English PEN condemn the arrest as an arbitrary and politically-motivated attempt to silence Rajabian as a musician, and call for the charges against him to be dropped.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Welcomes Release of Turkish Musician

September 4, 2020

(New York, NY) — Ali Aracı, a flute player for the Turkish music collective Grup Yorum, was released from prison Thursday after being behind bars since June 2019.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Condemns Death Sentence for Nigerian Musician

August 14, 2020

(New York, NY) — PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) has joined a statement from a wide range of human rights and artistic groups condemning the death sentence of a Nigerian musician and calling for his immediate release.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Demands Release of Three Belarusian Theater Company Members

August 11, 2020

(New York, NY) — Three members of an underground, independent theater company in Belarus were arrested during protests Sunday following the country’s contest presidential election. PEN America today condemned the detention of two managing directors of the Belarus Free Theatre, Svetlana Sugako and Nadezhda Brodskaya, as well as acting company member Daria Andreyanova, saying their arrests were politically motivated attempts to silence critical voices and demanding they be released immediately and unconditionally alongside all other political prisoners.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Turkish Music Collective's Cultural Center Raided by Police

August 6, 2020

(New York, NY) – On Wednesday, Turkish police raided a cultural center and arrested six members of a musical collective based there. The members of Grup Yorum, frequently targeted by authorities for speaking out against the Turkish government, were released later that day.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Writers, Actors, Filmmakers Call For Release of Egyptian Film Editor

August 4, 2020

(New York, NY) — Over 200 of the world’s most prominent artists, along with nearly two dozen leading human rights groups and film organizations, are calling for the immediate release of Sanaa Seif, a film editor arrested in Cairo last month.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Turkish Writer Faces Renewed Charges After Acquittal in February

July 10, 2020

(New York, NY) — Turkish prosecutors this week have reopened a spurious case against writer Asli Erdoğan. She now faces renewed charges of sedition, membership of a terrorist organization, and use of propaganda for her work with Özgür Gündem, a pro-Kurdish newspaper that the Turkish government shuttered in 2016. PEN America today called for an end to the politically-motivated harassment of Erdoğan and condemned the unjust nature of the appeal. 

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Suit Against Chilean Artist Collective is Censorship

July 2, 2020

(New York, NY) — Chilean authorities have brought a lawsuit against the feminist collective Las Tesis for allegedly inciting violence and hate against the country’s national police force, arguing that a recent performance amounted to a direct attack against the police. In a statement today, PEN America said the act was a blatant instance of state-sponsored censorship.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Cuban Artist and Activist Arrested En Route to Protest

June 30, 2020

(New York, NY) – Artist and activist Tania Bruguera was reportedly arrested by Cuban authorities outside her home Tuesday morning, likely in an effort to prevent her from attending countrywide demonstrations against police violence. Her whereabouts are currently unknown. PEN America today condemned the news, calling it an affront to freedom of expression.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Russian Theater Director Given Three-Year Suspended Sentence

June 26, 2020

(New York, NY) — Prominent Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov and a group of co-defendants were convicted on baseless embezzlement charges today. PEN America said the conviction and sentences were yet another unjust, unwarranted attack on dissenters in Russia.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Decries Detention and Apparent Assault of Cuban Artists

June 13, 2020

New York, NY – PEN America is deeply concerned about the detention of independent Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and rapper and musician Maykel Osorbo. Both were released Friday morning with signs of assault. In what is indisputably part of the Cuban government’s ongoing efforts to terrorize independent artists, the two artists were detained and assaulted by police on Thursday night. When they were released, they were wounded and covered in blood.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Toward a More Just World: A PEN America Statement

June 1, 2020

As an organization that champions open expression and the freedom to write, PEN America condemns the horrific toll that anti-Black racism and bigotry exact upon people and society by threatening lives, sowing divisions, and silencing voices. Anti-Black violence, and the systems that perpetuate it, have caused incalculable grief and physical suffering, and cripple the quest for common truths and social progress. Bigotry is also an affront to free speech, for when words and acts willfully inflict terror and harm, they subvert open discourse. 

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Egyptian Web Designer Mustafa Gamal Ordered Freed

June 1, 2020

New York, NY – PEN America was heartened to learn today that Egyptian designer Mustafa Gamal has been ordered released from pre-trial detention in Egypt. Originally detained in connection with a music video critical of Egypt’s government, his release comes just days after PEN America led a global coalition calling for the release of all pre-trial detainees being held unjustly in Egypt and a full investigation into the death of the music video’s director Shady Habash.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America-led Coalition Demands Investigation into Death of Egyptian Filmmaker

May 22, 2020

(New York, NY)— In an open letter sent this week to the Egyptian Ministry of Justice, PEN America, Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network, and more than 60 partner organizations called on authorities to conduct a full and transparent investigation into the death in custody of 24 year-old filmmaker Shady Habash, and to release all artists, writers, and journalists currently held in pre-trial detention.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Chilean Authorities Appear to Allow Erasure of Art Collective’s Work

May 20, 2020

New York, NY – In an attempt to raise awareness about the thousands of people affected by COVID-19 who have not received adequate treatment, Delight Lab had been conducting a series of “proyectorazo” actions in Santiago, projecting visuals and text on public spaces. On May 18, they screened the word hambre, or hunger, on the Telefónica building in downtown Santiago. The next day, they displayed the words humanidad and solidaridad (humanity and solidarity), but shortly thereafter, a vehicle apparently under police escort directed floodlights at the building, effectively “erasing” Delight Lab’s artwork.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

"Found" Bangladeshi Photojournalist Must Be Released

May 7, 2020

(New York, NY) –Bangladeshi photo journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol was arrested and charged Monday shortly after being “found” following a disappearance of 53 days. PEN America denounced his disappearance and arrest as a blatant attempt to muzzle criticism of the government, and demanded that Bangladeshi authorities immediately release Kajol and drop all charges against him.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Turkish Musician Suspends Hunger Strike After Nearly A Year

May 6, 2020

New York, NY – PEN America is relieved to hear that Turkish musician İbrahim Gökçek, a member of the music collective Grup Yorum, suspended his hunger strike as of Wednesday and is receiving medical treatment. The news comes a day after it was announced that his health had reached a critical level. He started his hunger strike 323 days ago to protest his imprisonment and that of eight other band members in 2019. 

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Egyptian Filmmaker and Photographer Jailed for a Music Video Dies in Prison

May 2, 2020

New York, NY – PEN America mourns the death of Egyptian filmmaker and photographer Shady Habash, who died Friday in Tora Prison, a maximum-security facility in Cairo, after almost 800 days in pre-trial detention. The cause of his death is not yet known. Jailed for directing a music video critical of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, he had been in prison since March 2018. PEN America said his death was a devastating blow to artistic freedom, called for answers into the circumstances of his passing, and condemned the Egyptian government’s ongoing criminalization of artists and writers who express dissenting views. 

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America-Led Coalition Launches New Rapid Response Network to Support African Artists

April 29, 2020

PEN America today is launching a network to provide rapid response support for artists across the African continent. Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network* brings together the resources of ten organizations to provide assistance to creatives at risk in Africa; to coordinate adequate support when artists and cultural professionals on the continent face danger because of their work; and to support regional safe havens.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Decision to Halt Green Cards a Devastating Blow to International Exchange of Ideas

April 22, 2020

New York, NY – President Donald Trump’s decision to temporarily halt the issuance of all green cards for people wishing to immigrate to the United States for 60 days deals a devastating blow to cross-cultural exchange and the free flow of ideas and individuals, PEN America said today. Over half a million people were granted green cards in the United States last year, many of them are artists, writers, and cultural professionals. Work visas will not be granted, barring creative foreigners to work and live in the United States. 

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Burmese Artists Arrested For Mural Depicting Dangers of Coronavirus

April 14, 2020

New York, NY – On April 3, Zayar Hnaung, Ja Sai, and Naw Htun Aung were charged with violating article 295A of the Myanmar penal code , which criminalizes speech that “insults or attempts to insult” religion or religious beliefs. The artists were arrested after painting a mural intended to raise awareness about the coronavirus epidemic. PEN America today said charges should be dropped against three Burmese street artists arrested for purportedly “insulting religion.” PEN America also said that their arrest exemplifies the abusive potential of laws that penalize peaceful speech.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Turkish Musician Dies Following Hunger Strike

April 3, 2020

New York, NY – PEN America mourns the death of Turkish singer Helin Bölek, who died Friday after a nearly 300-day hunger strike. She was a member of the music collective Grup Yorum, which has faced ongoing persecution by the Turkish government for years. Bölek had been on a hunger strike to protest her imprisonment and that of eight other band members during 2019.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Prison Sentence for Uyghur Singer Part of China's Efforts to Eradicate Uyghur Culture

March 27, 2020

New York, NY – The secret sentencing of celebrated Uyghur singer Rashida Dawut to 15 years in prison for “separatism” is one more iteration of the Chinese government’s disturbing and reprehensible attempt to eradicate the cultural expression of Uyghurs and other minority groups, PEN America said today. Sentenced in a secret trial in late 2019 in northwest’s China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Rashida Dawut’s status was only reported this week by Radio Free Asia. 

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Thai Artist Arrested for Posting About Country's Coronavirus Screening

March 25, 2020

New York, NY – The arrest of Thai artist Danai Ussama for Facebook posts related to the COVID-19 outbreak is an indefensible violation of freedom of expression and poses a significant threat to the spread of truthful health-related information during the pandemic, PEN America said today. 

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Dissident Cuban Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara Freed After 13 Days in Jail

March 16, 2020

New York, NY – Independent Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was released by Cuban authorities overnight on Friday, March 13. The artist had been arrested for the twenty-first time since 2017 on fallacious charges of “insulting national symbols” and “property damage,” and had been in jail awaiting trial since March 1. Hours before his release, Amnesty International named Otero Alcántara a prisoner of conscience.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Charges Must Be Dropped Against Ugandan Filmmaker and Journalist

March 16, 2020

New York, NY – The arrest of Ugandan filmmaker and journalist Bwayo Moses on charges of “unlawful assembly” and “singing [a] song subverting or promoting subversion of the government of Uganda” represents an unwarranted and unjustifiable attack on artistic expression, and charges against him should immediately be dropped, PEN America, the International Documentary Association (IDA), and the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) said today.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Condemns Detention of Cuban Artist, Demands Charges Be Dropped

March 4, 2020

New York, NY  –  The arrest of Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara on fabricated charges is an indefensible violation of freedom of expression and basic human dignity. Cuban multidisciplinary artist Otero Alcántara was reportedly arrested Sunday on alleged charges of insulting national symbols, vandalism, and aggravated contempt of court. He could face a sentence of 2 to 5 years in prison. PEN America today said those charges must be dropped and Otero Alcántara should be released immediately.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Egyptian Institutions Ban Mahraganat Genre of Music and Threaten Legal Action Against Artists and Listeners

February 24, 2020

New York, NY —  The state-supported ban on mahraganat, an Egyptian electronic folk music genre, is an absurd and egregious violation of artistic freedom of expression that seeks to repress an entire generation of musicians and their fans, PEN America said in a statement today. "The state has no place in determining the merits of music, or any other form of art. Free expression belongs to the public," said Julie Trebault, director of Artists at Risk Connection (ARC).

Read PEN America's full statement here

Burmese Filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi Freed From Prison

February 21, 2020

New York, NY –  PEN America today welcomed news that Burmese filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was released from Insein prison. “We are overjoyed by the news that Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi has been freed from prison today and will be able to rejoin his family, friends, and students. His wrongful conviction in August dealt a harsh blow to freedom of artistic expression, striving to silence one of Myanmar’s most vocal and talented filmmakers and human rights activists," said ARC's director Julie Trebault. 

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Proposed Travel Ban Expansion Reprehensible Blow to Free Flow of Ideas

January 31, 2020

New York, NY – The Trump administration’s announcement Friday that it will expand its travel ban, placing new visa restrictions on individuals from six additional countries (Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania), is a reprehensible blow to the free flow of culture and ideas, and shows clear disdain for the American tradition of open exchange, PEN America said in a statement today.  

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Condemns Ongoing Harassment and Arrest of Cuban Artists

January 31, 2020

New York, NY – For the seventeenth time in six months, Cuban authorities this week arrested and fined writer Jorge Olivera Castillo and human rights activist Nancy Alfaya. " These ruthless attacks are part of an aggravating and deplorable attempt by the Cuban government to muzzle dissent and restrict any speech that is unsanctioned or not aligned with the regime’s political narrative," said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. 

Read PEN America's full statement here

Closure of China's Largest Independent Film Festival Alarming Sign for Free Expression

January 24, 2020

New York, NY – The announcement that China’s largest independent film festival will shut down is an alarming indication of the tightening chokehold the Chinese government has on arts and freedom of expression, PEN America said today. On January 10, the organizers of the China Independent Film Festival (CIFF) announced that the festival would be indefinitely shuttered due to “current… conditions” that make it “impossible to organize a film festival that truly has a purely independent spirit.” The CIFF, which has run for over 17 years, is the largest festival of its kind within China. 

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Charges Must Be Dropped Against Russian Artist And Activist

January 16, 2020

New York, NY – A Russian artist, theater director, and feminist activist may face up to six years in prison after sharing artwork on social media that promoted body positivity and LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. Yulia Tsvetkova was fined 50,000 rubles (US$ 780) for disseminating “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors” and faces up to six years in prison for pornography charges. The charges are a reprehensible violation of artistic freedom and part of an on-going attack against LGBTQIA+ activists in Russia, PEN America said today.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Shortlisted for an Oscar, Syrian Filmmaker Denied U.S. Travel Visa

January 3, 2020

New York, NY – PEN America today said denying a visa for Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad was yet another example of how the Trump administration’s travel ban continues to thwart international cultural exchange. “The denial of Fayyad’s visa shows how the travel ban continues to disrupt and prevent the free flow of artists and ideas across borders, in the process undermining a powerful vehicle for international understanding,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Calls for Immediate Release of Chinese Artist Arrested for Supporting Hong Kong Protesters

December 31, 2019

NEW YORK— Chinese authorities arrested artist Yang Licai, likely because of posts he made online in support of Hong Kong protesters. PEN America today said his arrest is part of the government’s ongoing crackdown against artists and activists. Yang was arrested in Shenzhen by police from his hometown Panshan in Liaoning Province on December 11 on charges of inciting disruption. Those charges could land him in prison for up to five years. Police also raided his home and seized his computers, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders. PEN America calls for his immediate release, and for the Chinese authorities to allow his and other critical voices to be heard.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Demand Cuban Authorities Stop Harassing Cuban Writer and Activist  

November 18, 2019

NEW YORK— Cuban police have surrounded the home of writer Jorge Olivera Castillo and human rights activist Nancy Alfaya for the fourth time in weeks. The couple has reportedly been unable to leave the house for over 72 hours out of fear of arrest. PEN America calls for the Cuban police to immediately leave the vicinity of Jorge and Nancy’s home and to end the widespread crackdown on freedom of expression throughout the country.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Persecuted Cuban Artist Being Held, His Location Unknown

November 13, 2019

NEW YORK—Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) and PEN America are deeply alarmed by the disappearance and presumed detention of independent Cuban multidisciplinary artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. Otero Alcántara, who has vocally mobilized against Decree 349, a 2018 regulation that gives Cuban authorities sweeping powers to regulate creative expression and the cultural sector at large, vanished on Monday after being summoned by state security forces.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

U.S. Denies Visas to Four Middle Eastern Artists Hoping to Attend Their Own Exhibition

November 8, 2019

NEW YORK—Four artists hoping to attend a new exhibition at MoMA PS1 featuring their work were reportedly denied visas to the U.S. by immigration officials. One artist is an Iraqi-born Dutch citizen who had been living in the Netherlands for 35 years, and another is based in Baghdad. According to reports, two more artists were also denied visas under the purview of the Trump administration’s travel ban or due to complications with their asylum status, and countless more did not even attempt to acquire visas because of their countries of origin.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Calls for the Immediate Release of Independent Cuban Activist

October 23, 2019

NEW YORK—As part of a disturbing trend of harassment and intimidation of independent artists and thinkers in Cuba, writer Jorge Olivera Castillo and his wife, social activist Nancy Alfaya, were arrested on Tuesday for the second time in recent weeks.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Cameroonian Rapper Valsero Released after Nearly Nine Months of Detention

October 5, 2019

NEW YORK—Cameroonian rapper Gaston Philippe Abe Abe, better known by his stage name, Valsero, was freed this morning after almost nine months of detention. His release is a moment of celebration for Valsero and his family and a triumph for all those who have fought for his freedom and the freedom of other imprisoned artists, PEN America said today.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Says Arrest of Cuban Artists Part of an Ongoing Campaign of Harassment  

October 2, 2019

NEW YORK—In yet another display of harassment against independent artists, Cuban police this week again arrested poet and writer Jorge Olivera Castillo and his wife Nancy Alfaya. While both have since been released, the ongoing campaign against them and other artists in Cuba is part of a crackdown on artistic freedom rooted in a new 2018 regulation known as Decree 349, PEN America said in a statement today.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Arrest of Iranian Writer’s Family Members “Deplorable Attempt to Intimidate Her”

September 25, 2019

NEW YORK—Earlier this week, Iranian officials reportedly arrested three relatives of journalist, author, and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad. PEN America said the arrests of Alireza Alinejad, Hadi Lotfi, and Leila Lotfi are likely retaliatory against Alinejad for her work calling for women’s rights and an alarming and reprehensible attack on free expression.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America calls for charges against pro-democracy activist Valsero to be dropped

September 5, 2019  

NEW YORK—The arrest, ongoing detention, and charges against Cameroonian rapper Gaston Serval Abe, known as Valsero, are inexcusable violations of freedom artistic expression, PEN America said in a statement today. Arrested earlier this year in the vicinity of a pro-democracy demonstration, Valsero will appear before a military court Friday and could face the death penalty. He’s charged with rebellion against the state, terrorism, insurrection, inciting public disorder, and propagating false information.   

Read PEN America's full statement here.

PEN America Condemns Brutal Homophobic Attack on Belarusian Filmmaker

August 30, 2019

NEW YORK—The recent homophobic attack against a Belarusian filmmaker is a heinous attempt to silence artistic and minority voices, PEN America said in a statement today.

Kolya Kuprich was targeted after he defended several colleagues working on his in-progress documentary, Pussy Boys, about the Minsk’s LGBTQI+ community.

Read PEN America's full statement here.

Burmese Filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi Sentenced to One Year Hard Labor for Posts Critical of Military

August 29, 2019

NEW YORK—A court in Myanmar today sentenced filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi to a year’s hard labor for posts he made on social media that were critical of the military. In a statement, PEN America called the sentence an abhorrent affront to freedom of expression and artistic freedom.  

Ko Ko Gyi was sentenced under section 505(a) of the country’s penal code, which criminalizes making, publishing, or sharing “any statement, rumour or report” that might induce any military service member “to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty.”   

Read PEN America's statement in full here.

One of the 13 murals that make up “The Life of Washington” at George Washington High School in San Francisco. Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times  

Preserving Controversial San Francisco Murals a Better Solution

August 14, 2019

NEW YORK—A proposed decision by the San Francisco School Board to destroy a series of controversial Depression-era murals at George Washington High School would constitute a serious threat to artistic freedom of expression, but a proposal to cover the murals without destroying them presents a sound alternative, PEN America said in a statement today.

The 1936 Victor Arnautoff murals, entitled “The Life of Washington,” were a project of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration. Recently, the murals sparked controversy after several parents at the school said the work was offensive for its depictions of African-American slaves and a dead Native American. In June, the school board unanimously voted to paint over the murals. Since then, however, a large number of organizations have come out in opposition to the murals’ destruction.

Read PEN America's statement in full here.

Daves Guzha and company arriving at court, July 29, 2019. 

Charges Must Be Dropped Against Two Zimbabwean Filmmakers And Two Others Arrested For Film Screening

July 29, 2019

NEW YORK—The decision to charge two Zimbabwean filmmakers, along with two artists, with unlawfully screening a fictional film, The Lord of Kush, is an “unjust act of intimidation” and threat to artistic freedom, PEN America said in a statement today.

Zimbabwean filmmakers Tendai Maduwa and Kudakwashe Bwititi, and Arterial Network Chairman and President Daves Guzha, and director of the Harare creative space Theater in the Park (TITP) Peter Churu were jailed on Sunday and appeared in court on Monday.

Read PEN America's statement in full here.

Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and Çayan Demirel at a hotel conference room in Taksim, July 20, 2019.

Prison Sentences Imposed on Turkish Filmmakers Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and Çayan Demirel for Documentary, Bakur

July 23, 2019

NEW YORK—The prison sentences imposed this month on award-winning Turkish documentary filmmakers Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and Çayan Demirel represent a “serious blow” to artistic freedom, and one more effort to silence those who fail to promote views held by President Erdoğan, PEN America said in a statement today.

The two were sentenced to four years and six months in prison on July 18 for their documentary Bakur, which follows the lives of PKK guerilla fighters in Kurdistan during the failed 2013-2014 peace talks.

Read PEN America's statement in full here.

Myanmar filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi reports to the Insein township police station in northern Yangon, April 2, 2019. Courtesy of rfa.org

Burmese Filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi to Face Trial on Charges Stemming from Facebook Posts Critical of the Military

July 23, 2019

NEW YORK—The decision to put Burmese filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi on trial for posts on his personal Facebook account that criticized Myanmar’s military is an unacceptable attack on free expression, PEN America said in a statement today.

“The fact that Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi has been targeted for speaking his mind online demonstrates the Myanmar government’s continued disregard for the right to free expression,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “This arrest is just one piece of a broader, persistent pattern of cracking down on any form of dissent in Myanmar, and it is clearly intended to send a clear message to other artists, journalists, and human rights activists: critique this administration, and especially the military, at your peril. We call for Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for the Myanmar government to cease its unacceptable attacks on free expression.”

Read PEN America's statement in full here.

Deng Chuanbin. Photo: Chinese Human Rights Defenders/Twitter.

Arrest of Chinese Filmmaker Deng Chuanbin Represents the Extreme Lengths of Chinese Authorities to Silence Artistic Voices

May 28, 2019

NEW YORK—The arrest of Chinese filmmaker Deng Chuanbin (also known as Huang Huang) apparently for tweeting a Chinese political meme, represents the extreme steps Chinese authorities will take to silence artistic voices attempting to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Protests, PEN America said today.

Huang, an independent documentary filmmaker living in Sichuan Province, was arrested by Chinese authorities on May 17. That morning, Huang tweeted a Chinese political meme, which referenced the Tiananmen Square protests that took place on June 4, 1989. According to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders and Art Asia Pacific, authorities returned to Huang’s residence and seized several of his belongings after his arrest, including three cell phones, an iPad, laptop, camera, and several memory cards.

Read the full statement by PEN America here.

Cuban artist Yasser Castellanos at the 2018 Biennial.

Independent Artists Under Threat During Havana Biennale

April 16, 2019

NEW YORK—Since the opening of the XIII Havana Biennial on April 12, 2019, several independent Cuban artists have been arrested and have been the targets of constant harassment by the Cuban police. In response to the beginning of the official Biennial and in protest at the Cuban government’s introduction of Decree 349, which formalizes and widens the scope of artistic censorship in Cuba, independent artists have organized alternative cultural events under the title of “Bienal sin 349”. Aware of the potential danger to the artists, ARC, Index on Censorship and PEN International issued a statement in solidarity on Friday, April 12.

On eve of the opening of the Biennial, artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was arrested by Cuban police while performing a piece work involving a footrace with American flags outside his home with two other artists. He was released 72 hours after on Monday, April 15. Artist and activist Amaury Pacheco was arrested and released a few hours later. Pacheco and his wife Iris Ruiz had their house vandalized a few days before. Last week, the artist and writer Coco Fusco was denied entry to Cuba, and poet Katherine Bisquet has stated she and her family have been the targets of increased threats in the past month. All of these artists have been outspoken against Decree 349.

Read more here.

Cuba's Decree 349 Poses Expansive Restrictions on Artistic Freedom, PEN America and Artists at Risk Connection whitepaper warns

March 4th, 2019

NEW YORK—Sounding the alarm on the Cuban government’s grave new policy with potentially catastrophic effects for independent artists, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) issued Art Under Pressure: Decree 349 Restricts Creative Freedom in Cuba today. Released in the wake of Cuba’s February 24 referendum that recognized private property, but enshrined one-party rule, and a month before the Havana Biennial Art Exhibition, Art Under Pressure examines the government’s efforts to institutionalize and expand limits on creative expression by criminalizing unregistered artistic labor, authorizing censorship, and empowering a new class of state inspectors to regulate creative expression. 

“While Cuba’s vibrant artistic and cultural scene is known all over the world, so is the country’s reputation for censoring and retribution for artists who dare to challenge government orthodoxy,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection. “The provisions of Decree 349 are not unfamiliar to artists who have been forced to work with the state looming over their shoulders, but this glaring attempt to formalize and tighten decades-old censorship practices forcefully rebuts the notion that Cuba is opening up.

Read the whitepaper here.

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PEN America Celebrates Release of Turkish Artist, Writer Zehra Doğan

February 25, 2019

NEW YORK— PEN America is celebrating the release of Turkish painter, journalist and feminist activist Zehra Doğan, who was released on February 24 after spending the past 600 days in jail after Turkish courts deemed her journalistic and artistic work to be “terrorist propaganda.”

“We are delighted that Zehra has been released and reunited with family and friends after her unjust imprisonment, which was an appalling affront to free expression,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “Art should never be a crime. Doğan is a model of courage for all journalists and artists for standing up against injustice and silence, especially because of her determination to work and create while incarcerated. Many other journalists in Turkey remain behind bars. As we celebrate Zehra’s release, we call for the release of all other Turkish journalists, artists, and activists who are in prison for their journalism or their expression.”

Read more here.

Supporters of Ugandan musician turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine chant slogans outside his home after he arrived from the U.S. in Kampala, Uganda September 20, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mukasa/File Photo  

Ugandan artists should not have to seek government approval to make their art

February 11, 2019

NEW YORK—PEN America, Index on Censorship, more than 100 musicians, writers and artists, and members of the British and Ugandan parliament have signed a petition calling on Uganda to drop plans for regulations that include vetting songs, videos and film scripts prior to their release. Musicians, producers, promoters, filmmakers and all other artists would also have to register with the government and obtain a licence that can be revoked for a range of violations. 

High-profile signatories to the letter include U2’s Bono, and Adam Clayton, author Wole Soyinka, and Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell. Please contact agasparian@pen.org.

Read the entire petition here.

copyright racines 2019

Dissolution of NGO Racines an Unacceptable Violation of Cultural Rights in Morocco

January 22, 2019
NEW YORK—The dissolution of Morocco cultural group Racines by the Ministry of Interior is an unacceptable violation of cultural rights and democratic principles. “Racines’ sudden dissolution is an unwarranted and unjust attack on a vitally important cultural organization,” said Julie Trebault, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) Director. “It is inherent in the work of cultural organizations to facilitate dialogue on issues of importance to society….We call on the Moroccan authorities to permit Racines to continue to operate freely and without constraint.”

Read more here.

Disappearance of Photographer Lu Guang a Troubling Attack on Artistic Freedom in China

December 14, 2018
NEW YORK—The disappearance and reported detention of award-winning Chinese photojournalist Lu Guang is a troubling attack on artistic and journalistic freedom. “Unfortunately, Lu’s case is not unique. The Chinese government has a history of disappearing artists who use their practices as a platform to challenge and critique the regime’s policies”, said Julie Trébault, Director of PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection.

Read more here.

Arrest of 11 Cuban Artists an Intolerable Affront to Free Expression

December 5, 2018
NEW YORK—The repeated arrest of 11 Cuban artists, all of whom are active members of a campaign against Decree 349, a new law aimed at restricting independent art and culture, is an intolerable affront to free expression. “This repression is not new, but represents a continuation of the Cuban Ministry of Culture’s policy to intimidate and censor critical and independent artistic voices," said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America. 

Read more here.

Chinese Authorities Razing Ai Weiwei’s Studio Part of Larger Attack on Artistic Expression

August 7, 2018 
NEW YORK—The unannounced demolition of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s studio in Beijing is symptomatic of a larger attack on human rights and artistic expression in China. Ai was not notified about the demolition; several of his works were damaged in the studio’s demolition. “Around the world, artist studios and communes are spaces to be cherished, not discarded”, said Julie Trébault, Director of PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection. 

Read more here.

The Arrest of Shahidul Alam, Bangladeshi Writer, Photographer, Activist, An Intolerable Affront to Free Expression

August 6, 2018

NEW YORK– The arrest of award-winning Bangladeshi writer, photographer and activist Shahidul Alam for comments regarding recent student protests in the country is an intolerable affront to free expression. “As a photographer, Alam documents the truth so it may be shared with the world; his work and his voice matter now more than ever, and any attempt to punish him for voicing his opinion represents an unacceptable attack on the free speech of a world-renowned artist and activist,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America. 

Read more here.

Three-Year Prison Sentence for Poet Galal El-Behairy is Another Blow for Freedom of Expression in Egypt

July 31, 2018
Poet and lyricist Galal El-Behairy was sentenced to 3 years in prison for his lyrics to the song Balaha, released by exiled musician and activist Ramy Essam, and for his latest book of poetry, The Finest Women on Earth. On May 8, 2018, PEN America joined several PEN Centers, the Perpetuum Mobile Artists at Risk program, Safemuse, and Freemuse in signing an open letter demanding that the Egyptian government drop all charges against El-Behairy and protect the right to freedom of expression in Egypt.

Read more here.

Sentencing of Chinese Political Cartoonist Jiang Yefei and Activist Dong Guangping is the Unjust Result of an Unjust Process

July 27, 2018
NEW YORK—The sentencing of Chinese political cartoonist Jiang Yefei to six-and-a-half years in jail under national security charges is the latest and most serious injustice visited against a person targeted for their political and artistic speech. “Jiang should never have been charged with a crime, he should never have been repatriated against his will, he should never have spent a day in custody, and he should never have been convicted. The same goes for activist Dong Guangping, another political dissident who was forced to return to China to stand trial on absurd charges even after being granted refugee status”, said Summer Lopez, PEN America Senior Director for Free Expression Programs. 

Read more here.

Cartoonist Ramón Esono Ebalé Freed from Prison in Equatorial Guinea

March 7, 2018

NAIROBI/ NEW YORK—An Equatorial Guinean court on March 7, 2018, released an artist imprisoned on dubious charges for nearly six months, 18 human rights groups including PEN America said today. The prosecution dropped all charges against Ramón Esono Ebalé, a cartoonist whose work is often critical of the government, at his February 27 trial after the police officer who had accused him of counterfeiting $1,800 of local currency admitted making the accusation based on orders from his superiors.

Read more here.

Threat of Prison Sentence for Two Turkish Filmmakers Marks Another Blow to Free Expression in Turkey

February 8, 2018
NEW YORK — The arrest and trial of filmmakers Çayan Demirel and Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, accused of producing propaganda, is a violation of their free expression and artistic rights and yet another example of the Turkish government’s desire to subvert the judicial process, PEN America said in a statement.

Read more here.

Fordham University Welcomes Writer at Risk in Residence Kanchana Ugbabe with PEN America and Artists at Risk Connection

November 21, 2017
NEW YORK—The Fordham Department of English has welcomed a new colleague, Kanchana Ugbabe of Nigeria, to serve in the newly created position of Writer at Risk in Residence for one year beginning this fall. The pilot position was made possible through the efforts of the Creative Writing program in partnership with Westbeth Artists Housing, ArtistSafety.net, Residency Unlimited, PEN America, and ARC. The residency is the second effort of the New York City Safe Haven Prototype, a multi-organizational artist residency program designed to house, integrate, and nurture artists at risk.

Read more here.

More than 1,000 Attacks on Artists Worldwide in 2016 Highlight Growing Need for Resources and Support

October 10, 2017
NEW YORK—PEN America announced today the launch of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), an online collaboration of more than 500 global organizations that provide life-saving resources to artists worldwide who face oppression, persecution, arrest, and violence for their creative work. 

Read the full press release

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